Despite its recent entrance into our culture, CBD has been providing its soothing chemicals for quite some time, according to some estimates and bygone eras by others. With the passage of time, many different types of CBD products have been developed—including capsules and oils, lotions, and seltzer—with each one touting a more powerful dose than the next.
Tinctures, on the other hand, have a more sinister reputation. Despite their old-school apothecary packaging, tinctures are still somewhat mysterious because of their slow-drinking method (a few drops at a time under the tongue).
Dr. Low Dog, M.D., a specialist in herbal medicine and women’s health, and Kevin Hill, M.D., Director of the Division of Addiction Psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and Tieraona Low Dog discuss CBD tinctures’ mystique.
But first, a little CBD 101…
The cannabis plant contains hundreds of chemicals, including more than 120 cannabinoids. THC and cannabidiol are the most well-known cannabinoids because they produce euphoric effects or a “high” associated with marijuana, according to Low Dog.
The two chemicals function as polar opposites at a plant level, with CBD functioning as a sort of buffer to THC’s effects. “It’s like yin and yang,” says Hill. THC is responsible for the high, whereas CBD does not produce that effect.
A tincture is a herbal solution that’s produced by combining alcohol and water to extract substances from a plant, such as cannabis.
“Sometimes, you will find extracts called tinctures that use glycerin, vinegar, or oil as the solvent, instead of alcohol,” Low Dog says. “These offer the advantage of being alcohol-free, but may not always offer the same potency as an alcohol-water extract.”
What is CBD Tincture? CBD tinctures are usually prepared from high CBD hemp strains with 60 to 70 percent alcohol and are mostly utilized to alleviating anxiety or pain. “Tinctures are easy to use, have a long shelf life, and are absorbed readily via the tongue when ingested. The quantity of drops can be increased or decreased as needed,” Low Dog said.
Though CBD products hold a lot of potential, Hill warns that there’s still a lot more study to be done.
“The rate and scale of the research just hasn’t kept pace with the interest at this point. A lot of the medical uses for cannabidiol are backed by animal studies only or really no studies. So that’s where it can be a problem.”
“[CBD] is a relatively safe chemical,” Hill points out. “However, we still have a lot to learn about it, such as how it interacts with other medicines that people may be taking and what are the long-term consequences,” he adds. “And, perhaps most importantly,” he adds, “there’s a lot of stuff that goes on in the world. So while they’re using it as an adjunct to evidence-based therapy, people will sometimes want to use it instead of evidence-based treatment. And that can be problematic clinically in certain circumstances.”
According to Low Dog, a tincture might contain a wider range of compounds than an oil extraction because it doesn’t require as many steps. “Consumers who are alcohol-sensitive frequently prefer hemp oil over tincture. While both can be applied topically, hemp oil is generally easier to use and less painful,” he adds.
“If you’re putting a CBD cream on your skin, it won’t be absorbed into your circulation,” Hill adds. “It can act as a localized anti-inflammatory like other over-the-counter items – but CBD may not provide any more relief than those products and will almost certainly be considerably more expensive.”
“Quality is always an issue, especially in a new and rapidly growing market such as the cannabis market,” Low Dog adds. She’s correct. According to a 2017 research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, just 30% of commercially available CBD products were correctly labeled.
“Many of them had more CBD than they were supposed to, and some had less; some didn’t have any at all,” Hill adds. He believes it’s important to buy organic—since the cannabis plant is a bio-accumulator, it will be affected by heavy metals and pollutants in the soil—and broad-spectrum, or all of the phytocannabinoids, minus THC.
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